Sunday, May 16, 2010

16. This happened today

I haven’t been to many baby showers; but I like party games.
I went to my sister-in-law’s baby shower today. Everyone was given a blue necklace on arrival and the game was, you weren’t allowed to say the word ‘baby’. If you did, and someone else noticed, they could take your necklace.
I was surprised to find that I said the word ‘baby’ very early on. Nobody noticed though. I said, ‘Oh, I just said it,’ and some of my sisters went to take my necklace, but I said, actually, no, I think you have notice it yourself, and I kept my necklace.

After a while, someone brought out three baby bottles: one with orange juice, one with apple juice, and one with water. Three people were going to be chosen and the game was, they’d have to race each other to finish the bottles.
I thought: Well, no, that’s a game I wouldn’t want to play. No. I would never want to drink out of a baby’s bottle in front of everybody. That’s just – it’s just not dignified.

Everybody’s name was in a small plastic bag. They were going to choose the three contestants from the bag. I felt glad that I wouldn’t have to play this game. There were about 25 people there, so no chance my name would be called. I was interested though, to see how the three people would cope.

Two names were drawn, and everybody cried out and laughed and pointed to those two people. They had to go forward and sit on chairs at the front, and take a bottle each.
Then another name was drawn, and everybody said, oh, she’s not here. And another name, and that girl was exempted because she was filming the event with the video camera.
That’s when I got that uneasy feeling. I started to think of The Hunger Games. How the little sister’s name was called, and it was, like, what are the chances?! But it happened.

One more name was drawn from the bag. And it was mine.

Everything got hazy for a moment. I couldn’t hear or think straight. I don’t remember how I got to the chairs at the front, or who handed me the baby bottle. I just know that, when my vision cleared, there I was.
None of my sisters volunteered to take my place.

I thought: okay, the only thing to do here is win this.
As far as I could see, it was the only thing.

I got the apple juice. The woman on my left had the orange juice. She was older, and was making jokes in Portuguese. She unscrewed the lid of the bottle, and went to drink it like that, straight from the bottle, instead of through the teat, and I felt wonderful relief — of course, why not?! – but everybody shouted at her until she replaced the lid. On my right was a girl with long dark hair, and a baby bottle full of water. She was laughing and joking too, but there was a determined flash in her eyes. She was the one to beat.

Before I had a chance to figure out a strategy, someone said ‘okay, go’ and it was happening. We were all drinking from baby bottles. There was so much shouting and cheering! I think people were trying to advise me, but what were they saying? I tried to focus and all I could hear was, ‘drink it! drink it!’ and something about holding the bottle high so no air bubbles got in. But I couldn’t really distinguish the words. Sometimes I stopped and had a short break. I’ve seen babies do that. And I needed to check how fast the level was going down. Slowly. So slowly. It was unbelievable how much apple juice was in there. I tried tipping the bottle as high as I could, but it made no difference.

The woman with the orange juice was taking a lot of long breaks, laughing and talking. She wasn’t a concern. But the girl with the water — she was good. Her focus was extraordinary. And she had a team of supporters gathered around her, some of them actually tapping the bottle to make the liquid come out faster for her. My sisters were just sitting there, way across the room, laughing at me.

Every time I looked up I saw the video camera pointed at me.

The girl with the water was making excellent progress. My apple juice was never-ending. Her water was almost all gone. It was getting lower, lower.

It was gone.

I stopped drinking. ‘She’s finished,’ I said.

But then suddenly my sisters were shouting! No, no! It’s not all gone! You just can’t see it!

Water. It’s almost invisible.

I looked again, and the bottle caught the light. My sisters were right! There was still water there!

I started again—I put everything into it. I drew on reserves of strength I never knew I had. Nothing mattered now. I was nothing. I was this baby bottle of apple juice. And it was almost all gone! There were just a few drops left — I could see the end —

And then, suddenly, it was over.

The girl with the water had finished. Her bottle was empty. Her supporters were cheering.
I looked at my bottle.
At least, I thought, I’ve come second.
But the older woman — she had hardly any orange juice left! And she’d taken so many breaks! She’d been so relaxed about it!

I returned to my sisters. They were already talking about other things. Somebody was saying that head lice cannot jump or fly but they can trapeze.

I felt light-headed, faint almost.
I couldn’t figure out what had just happened.
A little while later, I was given a scented candle, for being a competitor. I felt a lot better after that.

Most of my sisters had lost their blue necklaces by now, but my youngest sister, Nicola, had collected five or six. I still had my own. I looked around the room. A few people had three or four necklaces. Nicola was coming first.
I said, ‘You should win mine from me.’
She looked confused for a moment — I kept my gaze fixed on her - and then she understood.
She pointed to a baby. ‘What’s that?’ she said.
‘A baby,’ I said. And I gave her my necklace.

She won the competition. At the end of the party, she had the most necklaces, and she won. She got a small ceramic turtle, for her bathtub.